Congratulations on being selected to your new role – it’s a big responsibility. So, what does that really mean? What is your role within the organization? And how do you go about performing that role?
The father of modern management, Peter Drucker, provides a wealth of advice on the subject. Most of what we think about management and organizations is based on Drucker’s decades of experience and study.
In broad terms, the essential role of a manager is to make the resources under your control productive. That means selecting the right tasks to accomplish to meet your given objectives, and do it efficiently. After all, without clear objectives that fit into the big scheme of the organization, how would you know if you are headed in the right direction? To paraphrase Drucker, management by objectives works when you know what they are - 90 percent of the time managers don't. If you don't know what your objectives are, find out. How can your select your tasks to perform and measure progress if you don't know what you are trying to achieve?
Another area of focus for a new manager is realizing how to be effective (as opposed to just being efficient). Effective managers efficiently perform those tasks that should be done. Some may be efficient, but on tasks that may not need to be done at all. Knowing the difference is being an effective manager.
Drucker separated the function of management (being a manager) into two parts - managing and leading. He used the term managing in the sense of knowing what tasks needed to be accomplished and measuring performance. We commonly use metrics to demonstrate these results - knowing what to measure and reaching goals is part of being a manager. Managing in this sense is more about measuring performance and results than actually performing the tasks.
The Art of leadership
Leading, or performing the tasks through your staff is the harder part of being a manager since it involves the art of leadership. Your job as the leader (the term meant as a function as opposed to a position in the organization) involves managing the attitudes and behaviors of the employees to enable them to be effective. Being successful at leading involves knowing the strengths of the employees (and focusing on those versus trying to fix the weaknesses) and possessing an understanding of human behavior. For example, a manager should realize each person responds to input differently and values things differently (in other words, one leadership approach doesn't necessarily work on everyone the same way). A good starting point in understanding leadership is a book by Daniel Goleman (and others) called 'Primal Leaderhip'. The authors address the critical component of emotional intelligence that many managers fail to understand.
A very effective book addressing what to stop doing as a manager is by Marshall Goldsmith - 'What Got You Here, Won't Get You There'. Goldsmith covers 22 behaviors of managers that they should stop doing, since those behaviors really irritate everyone else (and greatly hinder performance).
As a new manager, realize most people seek a purpose in what they do (see Dan Pink's book called 'Drive'). That purpose isn't just making a living to survive - its typically to serve a higher purpose. To really be successful, find the higher purpose for your group. The idea is not to manipulate your employees to serve this purpose - its to find the real reason you do what you do.
As you may now realize, being a manger may be more complicated than you first thought. Its a bit scary at first and takes practice. Managing is not a strength for everyone (so if its not a strength for you, its not fair to you or others to stay in the role). Those who are good at it raise the performance of the overall organization and are appreciated for what they contribute.
Tim Parker is a Business Consultant focusing on Executives and Leadership. He is President of Parker Resource Management, LLC in Raleigh, NC.
"What do you want to be remembered for" - Peter Drucker